WEDNESDAY, 10 FEBRUARY 2021
SUBJECTS: Infrastructure underdelivery; Commuter Carparks; ExxonMobil refinery closure; Crown Casino; WHO COVID-19 report.
JOSH BURNS, MEMBER FOR MACNAMARA: We are here today at Balaclava Station, the very place where the Morrison Government before the last election made a $15 million commitment to build car parks here at Balaclava Station. But it’s been almost two years since the last election and not a single dollar has been spent here at Balaclava Station. Not a single a single car park has been built. It’s another case of the Morrison Government over-promising and under-delivering. Instead of cutting that $15 million from our local community, there are lots and lots of projects that could be spent and invested back here in wonderful Balaclava and East St Kilda, but instead the Morrison Government promises a lot and delivers absolutely nothing for our local community. I’m very pleased to be joined by Catherine King, our Shadow Minister for Infrastructure. I might hand over to Catherine to say a few words.
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Thanks very much, Josh and it’s terrific to be here with you, the Member for Macnamra in the community here at Balaclava Station. Well, the inaction we see here is absolutely symbolic of the shambles we see from the Morrison Government when it comes to infrastructure spending. All announcement, no delivery. A car park promised here for Balaclava Station, we’re now two years in and the reality is this car park is probably not going to happen because there’s no land available for the car park to actually be delivered on. We’ve got 67 car parks that were promised right the way across the nation as part of the Urban Congestion Fund, which has been underspent by over $500 million. We’ve got 67 car parks promised, but only four across the whole of the national are actually starting to be built today. Again, the Morrison Government over-promising, lots of press releases, and under-delivering. Well, you can’t park on a press release, you can’t park on an announcement, you actually need a car park delivered. And that’s what we’ve seen with the Urban Congestion Fund. We’ve seen it with road program after road program. This government is all announcement and no delivery. I’m very happy to take any questions.
JOURNALIST: Have you seen any sort of a timeline from them of just whether this is even feasible anymore?
KING: Well, they’ve just gone silent. I mean that’s basically what’s happened. They came here during the election campaign two years ago, made the great big announcement here that this car park was going to be delivered and then there’s nothing and that is replicated right the way across the country. 67 car parks announced. Four have started to be built some two years later.
JOURNALIST: Just on a few issues of the day, we’ve seen today some results from the World Health Organisation’s inquiry, was Australia wrong to call for an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID?
KING: I think it’s important that we do actually have certainty around how this happened because we’ve got to learn the lessons from it and I think we’re very proud an Australian has participated in that World Health Organisation investigation and I think it was an important investigation to be undertaken.
JOURNALIST: Given the pressure and strain it put on Australia’s relationship with China and I guess the backlash we saw from their government in regards to that, has it been worth it?
KING: Look, I think again it is really important that the world and for China as well that we do get to the bottom of what happened with coronavirus so that it doesn’t happen again and we’re very pleased that Australia participated in that. In terms of the Australia-China relationship, I think that is equally important. It’s important to our economy but it’s also important that Australia stands up for its own interests and that’s what we should always do in our foreign policy discussions.
JOURNALIST: Another big story, obviously what’s happening with Crown, this morning we’ve seen two directors who are Packer backed now quit, step down. Do you think Crown still has a future in Melbourne and what would you like to see there?
KING: Well, I don’t think they’re decisions that politicians should make. I think that’s really important. The independent regulator here in Victoria needs to answer that question whether they think Crown is a fit and proper entity to be undertaking that casino and we’ll leave it, frankly, not to politicians to make that decision but for that independent regulator to make those sort of decisions.
JOURNALIST: We’ve seen the state opposition yesterday and they were calling for judicial inquiry into whether it was, you know, whether it can still run here in Melbourne. Is that something you would support?
KING: Well, again, I’d leave it to the independent regulator but also the State Government to make comments around that and I’m sure that we will see further announcements made around, you know, whether there needs to be any further investigations here in Victoria.
JOURNALIST: This morning and we’ve had the announcement out in Altona that the oil refinery, Exxon’s refinery there has closed. What’s your reaction to this?
KING: Well this is an absolute failure of the Morrison Government to make sure we’ve got fuel security in this nation. Our transport sector, our aviation sector needs to have security of fuel supply. We know, for a long time now, our refineries are ageing and what we’ve seen today is a complete failure of government policy to ensure that we have fuel security. That we’ve not just got some ridiculous plan that we’re relying on fuel being stored somewhere overseas, which seems to be the Morrison Government’s proposal, but that we actually have refining capability here in Australia and that we have security of supply into the future. At the moment, we don’t have the amount of fuel stored in Australia that is recommended by the international bodies that say this is what you need to have for your security in Australia. It is a failure of public policy and the people now who’ve paid for it are the people out at the Altona refinery who’ve been told today that they’re losing their jobs. It is something that the Morison Government should have stepped in on much sooner, have a decent fuel security policy, including making sure we have refining capacity going forward here in Australia.
JOURNALIST: Not just in terms of fuel supply but are you concerned about the impact this might have on fuel prices as well?
KING: Absolutely. I think both on fuel prices, on availability of fuel for, you know, and it’s not just domestic, people driving around in cars, this is about our aviation industry going forward, it’s about our freight industry going forward as well and I think all of that potentially makes our domestic freight task even harder. And again, without a plan, without a proactive fuel security strategy, this is what happens. Jobs are lost in communities such as Altona and over in Western Australia with the government completely failing to actually secure our supplies of fuel.
JOURNALIST: Those things that you’ve mentioned in terms of having a fuel supply plan, is there anything else that the federal government could have done to prevent this from happening and saved the refinery?
KING: Absolutely. You know, we know that our refining infrastructure is ageing and I think the Altona plant is some 70 years old, we’ve still got the plant in Geelong, which again is an ageing plant as well. Actually having a proactive discussion about what is, you know, what do we need to do with fuel security in this nation, what do we need to do in relation to shipping policy to secure that as well, but the government like it does with everything is just completely absent from those discussions. It’s not a reforming government. It’s not a government with its eye on the future. It’s a government that is entirely and utterly only interested in its own political advantages, not what the future of the nation is needing.
JOURNALIST: Is there anything you guys can do from your end or you can do to put any pressure on to see that decision reversed or to step in in any way?
KING: Well certainly we’ll have our own policies as we go forward into the election campaign, as we head into this election year, around fuel security around national shipping policy and what we need to do to secure the freight task across this nation to really build those jobs, build those jobs here in this country that are going to enable people to have the opportunities and lifestyles we all want them to. But at the moment we’ve got a government that basically has got no interest in any of those issues.
JOURNALIST: Are you are you able, I guess at all, is there any pressure you guys can put in terms of reversing that decision? Is that something you’d like to see?
KING: Well, certainly we’d like to see the government step up and secure our refining capability here in this country. We’d like to see the government actually have a plan for fuel security, and through media opportunities and through the parliament will certainly put pressure on the government to actually do its job.
JOURNALIST: Would part of that plan involve keeping this particular refinery open?
KING: Well we’d certainly like to see this refinery open but obviously the government now has left it to the 11th hour to actually, you know, assist in any way and we hope very much that they can do something, but it looks like they’ve basically been asleep at the wheel.
CATHERINE KING & JOSH BURNS – TRANSCRIPT – DOORSTOP INTERVIEW – MELBOURNE – WEDNESDAY, 10 FEBRUARY 2021